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UNAIDS to launch HIV testing campaign across Africa in world record bid

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 9, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) –The UN is planning to conduct a multi-country HIV testing campaign in Africa to mark this year’s World AIDS Day in a bid to set a new world record for the most number of HIV tests conducted in one day.

The initiative will be conducted under the leadership of African national governments in close collaboration with the regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa (RST ESA) from the UN’s programme for AIDS and HIV (UNAIDS), civil society organisations and other regional and international partners.

The extensive campaign aims to mobilise individuals and their families, including people in areas of high HIV transmission, know their HIV status and seek prevention and treatment services.

Testing will be held across the region on a selected day within an eight-hour, upon agreement with relevant regional national governments.

The initiative is seeking to break the Guinness World Record for the most number of free HIV tests carried out in multiple areas in one day.

The record is currently held by Argentina, which conducted 3,733 free HIV tests in a single eight-hour period in Rosario city in commemoration of the 2012 World AIDS Day.

UNAIDS country community mobilisation and networking advisor in Ethiopia, Rahel Gettu, said registration for the Guinness world record attempt will be handled by UNAIDS’ regional office in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populace nation, is also one of the countries taking part in the multi-country testing campaign under the leadership of the ministry of health.

Gettu said testing would be conducted in Ethiopia’s Gambella region in the third week of November where HIV prevalence is among the highest in the country.

Gambella, which borders neighbouring South Sudan, also hosts tens of thousands of South Sudanese who fled the latest outbreak of violence in the young East African nation.

The conflict, which erupted in mid-December last year after a political dispute in the country’s ruling party (SPLM) has killed thousands and uprooted more than 1.5 million from their homes.

UNAIDS officials are optimistic the 15-day campaign will top Argentina’s efforts in 2012.

The planned multi-country campaign will be broadcast live from various testing venues by the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC), one of UNAIDS’ core partners for the initiative.